“Art isn’t a footrace. No one comes in first place. Greatness is not a universally agreed-upon value. … America isn’t one story. It’s a layered and diverse array of identities, individual and collective, forged on contradictory realities that are imbued with and denied privilege and power. Our obsession with the Great American Novel is perhaps evidence of the even greater truth that it’s impossible for one to exist. As Americans, we keep looking anyway.” Cheryl Strayed and Adam Kirsch discuss the Great American Novel in this week’s New York Times Bookends. For a slightly different take, consider the 9 novels our experts chose as the Greatest American novels, from Moby-Dick to The Godfather.
New this week: Pushkin Hills by Sergei Dovlatov; The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger; Hyde by Daniel Levine; Cambridge by Girl, Interrupted author Susanna Kaysen; Decoded by Mai Jia; Visible City by Tova Mirvis; The Moon Before Morning by W.S. Merwin; and Caribou by Charles Wright.
“Eisenhower’s doctor, Howard McCrum Snyder, knew better than anyone that the commander in chief paid a heavy physical toll for the blandness he projected in public — and once had a presidential golf club thrown at him.” Janet Maslin reviews a new book on the “hidden” President.